Menstrual Alternatives

Before the age of 19, almost all I knew about menstruation came from a) sex ed classes in public school and b) my mother. It was not all bad – both taught that menstruation was a natural biological process without any inherently positive or negative value. Teaching us how to use disposables was better than not teaching us anything. But I really, REALLY wish they had taught me about other options.

I choose pads because I did not want cotton/plastic objects spending extended periods of time inside my body. Not that my body liked disposable pads either. I got rashes all of the time. But the worst thing was that I had to get them, soil them, and throw them out. Bad to the environment coming in, bad to the environment going out. It made me feel horrible about myself that I had to be tied to the industrial trashing machine in such an intimate way. I knew that people menstruated long before the industrial trashing machine existed, but according to sex-ed and my mother, the industrial trashing machine was my only option.

It was my dad of all people who broke me out of this. My dad read something about menstrual cups, and he suggested that I could try it.

At first, I rejected the menstrual cup. It goes inside the vagina, which is scary enough to many menstruators who have lots of experience putting things in their vagina (including my mother – she said that it looked scary when she saw one, and my mother has had me come through her vagina). It was even more scary to me, having never had any object inside her vagina. But that suggestion made me research alternatives … and I discovered cloth pads.

Me and cloth pads were love at first touch. Far fewer rashes. Instead of relying on the ‘feminine care’ aisle, I became self-reliant. Instead of pouring my personal fluids into plastic thrown in the trash, I watched the pretty patterns the blood would form as I washed my pretty pads by hand.

I reconsidered the cup when I knew I was going abroad. Well … I went for it. It was painful and rough for the first couple months, but its painless now. And I learned a lot. For example, just as hair, feet, butts, noses, etc. come in different shapes and sizes … so do vaginas. Is this common knowledge among people who use their vaginas for sexual purposes, or is this just among cup users? I found my vagina had a very different shape than I had imagined, so that was cool.

My vagina, alas, does not allow for a complete seal, so I still need my cloth pads … but the cup does the heavy lifting these days, and it cuts down on the time I spend hand-washing. And I can now do useful things with the blood, like fertilize plants.

Menstrual alternatives are beautiful. Every menstruator should know about them.

9 thoughts on “Menstrual Alternatives

  1. Finally – someone else who uses the menstrual cup! I have been using the Diva Cup for the past few years, and it’s been a wonderful experience (after I got through the first few months of adjustment). I love that I’m not filling up landfills with my discharged items. 🙂

    • I use the Lunette myself (the Finnish cup). I find it interesting how various different countries seems to have their own small-scale cup manufacturers. I also cannot help noticing that the menstrual alternatives industry seems to be run by women whereas the menstrual disposables industry seems to be run by cis-men.

    • My vagina has a U-shape, so pretty much no cup is going to form a seal (based on what’s I’ve read, people with U-shape vaginas generally cannot get cups to seal no matter what the length/width/squishiness is), which is OK, because I know how to use my washable pads.

      That’s still a pretty cool chart. According the chart, what I have (S Lunette) is just about right, since my vagina is long and tight (granted, the S Lunette is a little shorter than I would prefer, but I generally don’t have a problem pulling it out).

  2. I have tried so many times to use my Diva cup, and I just can’t seem to find a way to make it comfortable. I’ve been told I need to practice more, so maybe I need to recommit. *sigh* However, I can’t say enough positive things about washable cotton pads. I’ve been using them for a few years now, and they are AWESOME.

    • If you’re happy with washable cotton pads, there is no reason to switch to the cup. However, if you do want to make the switch, perhaps you could try a different cup – based on what I’ve read, both the Lunette and the LadyCup are generally considered more comfortable than the DivaCup (though I can attest from personal experience that using the Lunette probably will be painful for the first few months). The Cuplee is so new that I know very little about it, but it’s possible that it is also more comfortable than the DivaCup.

    • I don’t know what specifically makes your Diva cup uncomfortable, but one thing that bothered me was the pokey stem, so I cut it off. There are ridges around the bottom of the cup, so I can still get a grip to pull it out. I also need to make sure it’s positioned high enough. And if insertion is a problem, try different methods (and lube). I like the “origami fold”, which was not included in the instructions that came with my cup. I think I learned about that on the livejournal community on menstrual cups–worth checking out for anyone who wants more info or has questions.

    • I wish my mother had been more supportive of the process … she was astonished that I would want to wash my own pads, and she says that when she first saw the cup, that it scared her. She wouldn’t even let me to donate the leftover disposable menstrual pads I had. Thank goodness menstrual alternatives are cheaper than disposables, because I had to pay for them with my own money (at the time I made the switch, I was in college and without an income). I could have probably persuaded my dad to pay for them if really necessary … but that would have been a bit awkward.

      I really do suspect that my Dad had the better attitude because he has never been a menstruator – he didn’t have as many preconceived ideas about the process.

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